Hong Kong Airport Braces for Sit-In Protest Lasting All Weekend

Posted by on August 9, 2019 6:26 pm
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(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong’s airport bolstered security as protesters began a three-day sit-in at the arrivals hall of its main terminal, kicking off a 10th straight weekend of anti-China demonstrations.

Only departing passengers with tickets or boarding passes and valid travel documents will be allowed to enter the check-in area at Terminal 1 until Sunday night, the Hong Kong Airport Authority said in a statement Friday, and security personnel have been deployed to assist passengers and airport staff. The sit-in will serve as a backdrop for a flurry of weekend protests across the city, including separate rallies by senior citizens and families.

The weekend protests come days after a general strike that disrupted the financial hub’s morning rush hour, leaving traffic jammed, subway lines suspended and dozens of flights canceled. Those demonstrations, which ended in tear gas and dispersal operations, prompted local leader Carrie Lam to warn of a “very dangerous situation” as her China-backed government struggles to quell an unpredictable and increasingly widespread movement.

Protests sparked in June by a bill easing extraditions to the mainland have widened to include demands for Lam’s resignation. They are having an increasing impact on the economy and daily life in one of the world’s most densely crowded cities, raising concerns that Beijing will send in its army to restore order.

Lam on Friday said the economic downdraft caused by the protests was worse than that of the SARS epidemic and the 2008 global financial crisis. Speaking to reporters after meeting with 33 representatives from the city’s commerce, tourism, retail, finance, banking and economic sectors, she urged — but did not specify — measures to support the economy.

Read more from Lam’s press conference on the economy

A crowd of protesters began gathering at the airport Friday afternoon, after initially calling for a sit-in to get their message across to international visitors. Staff set up barriers outside of check-in aisles and passengers presented their boarding passes.

Thousands of black-shirted people swarmed the airport terminal in a similar scene late last month, sitting on the ground for hours, holding signs and chanting “Free Hong Kong! Free Hong Kong!” and other slogans as crowds watched. There were no major flight disruptions.

One company that’s been in focus during the protests is Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong’s dominant carrier. It came under fire from Chinese state media after some of its employees took part in a general strike on Monday. Later in the week, it said the unrest affected ticket sales in July and is hurting future bookings.

Cathay Pacific said Friday that while it supports the “one Country, two systems” principle under which the former British colony is governed, it doesn’t condone activities that may jeopardize Hong Kong’s stability or impact aviation safety.

“The personal behavior of individual employees does not represent the company’s position,” it said in a statement. “There is zero tolerance to any inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that may affect aviation safety. ”

(Updates with Carrie Lam’s economy comments in fifth paragraph.)

–With assistance from Crystal Tse.

To contact the reporters on this story: Karen Leigh in Hong Kong at kleigh4@bloomberg.net;Kyunghee Park in Singapore at kpark3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Karen Leigh

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